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I want to enrich my cat's life. We go on walks together and he likes it! He comes up onto entranceway table and stays perfectly still so I can put his harness on and he excitedly bounds out when I open the door.

We stay very near to my house but he's been wanting to explore more and more. We've crossed the street and sniffed the bushes and it's great!

The only problem is that he freaks out when he sees people. He leaps and bounds wildly, struggling to get out of his harness so he can run away. To remedy this, I just tried to cut out people. We go out at really crazy hours like 3am! But, today, even though we were out late, a couple of neighbors stepped outside and just hung out in front of their home talking. They were really far away from us but Jack saw them and he flipped.

I do not know what to do when he flips out and I don't know if his joy of going out is worth the stress he experiences when he sees other people. I restrained him (he only flails, no scratching or biting) and then picked him up and walked away with him but I'm afraid he could hurt himself when he's flailing or maybe escape the harness and run off in a panic.

I really want to keep walking him but even if we go out only late at night, we will inevitably see other people sometimes. Any advice? Ideally, I would have some friends act as strangers on a walk in order to get him more acclimated to other people but I just moved here and don't know anyone. Was also thinking about bringing a carrier of some kind to see if he'll retreat to it as a safe place when he's scared...??? Eh, who knows?!

Thank you for any general advice you can provide and advice regarding: 1. Whether or not you think I should keep walking him 2. What to do when your cat freaks out
 

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When my cat freaks out, I stop doing what freaks her out.
 

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do you have a front step or porch you can just sit on with him in the harness instead of going for walks for a while? maybe you can get him used to just seeing other people passing by or at a distance while he's safe and comfortable near his own home. THEN venture out on the front lawn or sidewalk ONLY. slowly make your way farther from the house once he's comfortable and stop freaking out when he sees other people. i would maybe try this for a while if you really want to keep going for walks eventually. if he keeps freaking out like he has been, it's possible he might eventually start associating the walks with bad things and have an aversion to walking outside at all at some point.
good luck! i think it would be great to take my cat for walks, but she's not into it.
 

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Pet stroller is better....

What you've described is the main problem with trying to take cats for walks----they freak out. Unfortunately some can wriggle out of their harness and take off with often disastrous results---run over by a vehicle, attacked by a stray dog or at night by a coyote. My suggestion is you can still have your cat enjoy the outdoors safely by taking him for walks in a pet stroller. The cats zipped in a mesh-covered stroller and altho he's not actually doing the walking (you're getting the exercise), he will enjoy it just as much, as he will feel safer, and will enjoy the sights, scents and sounds he hears, and it gives him a sense of patrolling a territory like he would if he were a feral cat. My two cats jump into the stroller and start meowing that they want to go for "walkies". If you get a stroller, get one with larger wheels as they will go over rougher surfaces, such as grass in a park.
 

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Thank you, all, for your input! That's really helpful information.

@maggie23 Thank you! That's a good idea. I'll try it out. And it could also just satisfy my desire to hang out with him in a place where he can sniff different smells, even if it's just outside the front door. We can even do it with the door open so he can retreat if he wants to. And, it's true, he may end up deciding for himself that walks and the outside in general is a scary place and in that case we'll just stop it all together.

@catloverami That's a really great idea that I hadn't thought of at all. This reminded me that I have taken him out in one of those space cat backpacks before and he was able to see and meet people with curiosity and calm! (An old lady came up to say hello to him) Wow, I can't believe I forgot about that. I think a pet stroller would really work! Thank you for sharing your personal experience here.
 

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I never had much luck with walking a cat on a lead. It was more like "taking the cat for a drag". The backpack sounds like a great idea, I've not seen anything like that, but my feral wouldn't stand for it anyway. :)
 

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@eldercat Yah it seems some cats just like it or don't. My cat took to it without training or coaxing. But maybe he's a walking cat AND his previous owner trained him? I don't know. But I've seen some cute videos of cats who don't like walks being dragged along on the floor without a care in the world hehehehehe.
 
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